#ygkChallenge: The Empire Strikes Back

Empire Movie Theatre, downtown KingstonWelcome to Kingstonist’s weekly challenge, dare, resolution or whatever you prefer to call it. Each week we establish a new and ambitious community goal, encouraging our readers, followers, friends and families to step out of their comfort zones and do something great, and hopefully a little out of the ordinary. Consider this your official and personal invitation to join us in completing a small but meaningful achievement. By taking part in this community-wide initiative, we hope to make Kingston a slightly better place to live, work and play. And of course, we also hope that you will feel proud of your contribution and achievement.

This week’s challenge encourages you to:

Sign the petition to keep the downtown Empire Theatre open. You’ve most likely heard by now that The Capitol 7/Empire Movie Theatre is set to close downtown, with a new location opening up at King’s Crossing. In addition to the move, Empire Theatres have instated a ‘no competition’ clause, which would prevent a new theatre from opening in the current downtown location. This week we challenge you to sign the petition asking Empire Theatres to keep the downtown theatre open so that we can continue to enjoy dinner and a movie in our great downtown, or perhaps to, at the very least, remove the no competition clause allowing a new business to thrive.

Sign up and commit to completing this week’s challenge by commenting below with an “I’m in“, “challenge accepted“, “en garde” or something along those lines. Further, help us spread the word via Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag: #ygkchallenge. As you work towards completing this week’s task, please feel free to lend others a helping hand by providing tips on how you achieved success.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

9 thoughts on “#ygkChallenge: The Empire Strikes Back

  • The loss of the empire downtown will be a significant blow to the vitality of the area. I imagine many of bars/restaurants in the area benefit from patrons who have dinner/drinks before or after a show. It acts as a destination/hub for the area. The major issue here though is if the no-competition clause is actually legal. Municipalities have control of land use through zoning. If the zoning on the property permits a theatre, i am not sure Empire's clause would hold up. If it was the case where private landowners could sell and restrict the future use of land, this infringes on municipal land use controls which are regulated through provincial law. Is there any laywers/legal students out there who can comment on this? The best chance to keep a theatre at this location is for a prospective purchaser to challenge the no-compeition b.s.

    • I agree, though the potential of legal action against a buyer (assuming it might be a separate non-compete the buyer signs, not specifically assigned to the location) would be enough for most to not attempt it / shy away from even attempting to buy the location.

      My thought is to ask all City Council members to create a zoning bylaw requiring that location to only be operated as a movie theatre. This would prevent anyone from buying it, and Empire would be stuck with the location. They could either sell it without the clause, keep it operating, or keep it shutdown – though at least sometime in the future it may be viable to re-open as Kingston's population increases.

      Anyone else want to help me with this effort? I am very busy until March 1st – but then can dedicate a lot of time to this.

      • Hi. I commented below….I don't know anything about doing this sort of thing, but I WANT TO HELP! I think your idea is good! Please, tell me how I can help. I'm 100% on board.

  • If I wanted to go and drive to a megaplex in Kingston, an option exists that would satisfy those wants already. Why on earth would I want another one?

    • Sadly they aren't taking into account what you want or your interests – otherwise they wouldn't be shutting down this location and hurting the sustainability of the downtown culture. They're only interested in how much more money they can potentially make.

      This is what urban sprawl has done to many downtowns in most cities. We need to fight to protect our downtown from suffering the same. All business owners should be made aware of the longer-term affects of this if they aren't already. They too should be pressuring City Council to require that location to stay a movie theatre. Just like the reasons businesses wanted the K-Rock centre, it brings many people to the downtown core. Mind you, the K-Rock centre cost a fortune compared to what it would cost to pass a bylaw requiring that location to stay a movie theatre.

  • Signed.

    The challenge is in convincing Empire that the downtown location would remain viable and relevant after the new location is opened. From an outsider's (non-downtown Kingstoner) point of view, it wouldn't make business sense to maintain both locations, as surely everyone would be happy to have a brand spanking new cinema and gladly go there instead.

    But as we all know, many of those living downtown:
    – are students.
    – do not own vehicles.
    – own vehicles but rarely venture outside of downtown except for work.
    – choose to support the downtown they live in whenever possible.
    – would be unwilling to sit on a bus for a half hour or more to go see a movie, especially since I believe (and could be mistaken on this) that the bus service out to Division ends quite early.
    – would be unwilling to spend or split a $15 cab ride each way to and from the cinema to see a movie.
    – want to be able to enjoy a convenient dinner and movie night, probably one of the most used date night options available. All of the best restaurants in this city are located downtown, and as someone that worked at the cinema in question for no less than 7 years, trust me when I say they do a lot of business with this crowd.

    That's a lot of lost business, the majority of which would probably not choose to use the new location. The new location wouldn't actually be taking business away from the downtown location either, since everyone that currently wants to go to a newer/bigger/modern cinema already goes to the Cineplex – basically they would be taking Cineplex's customers with the new location.

    Downtown is actually growing in population currently as well, with many apartments and condominiums under construction or planned. Why offer us a 50/50 choice between the Cineplex or Empire at King's Crossing, then they can tip the scales in their favour and all but ensure our patronage by keeping the Capitol 7 open!

    As an aside – I always thought that with a little investment and reno, the downtown location could be returned to a classic style cinema, and really be something unique and wonderful that would draw crowds and tourism. But I would gladly settle for the location simply remaining in existence, as I do still love it in it's current form.

  • There would be no one to operate it as a theater anyway. Cineplex wouldn't want it, they've been closing old style theaters too. There is a reason the theater chains have spent a fortune improving the experience

    I always thought it would be nice to have discount second run theater like the Rainbow chain. Don't know when then last time they opened one was but they don't go in to premium real estate anyway. The occupancy cost of this building would exceed the gross revenue of the Screening room. Then take into account there will be 10 more modern screens in the Kingston market, and the whole industry declining year after year.

    What independent/lesser theaters that are still left are probably dead within a few years anyway with the imminent change to digital only distribution requiring expensive new projectors. Including the kingston Drive in owner talking about that requirement may force him out of business soon.

  • I think this is an important challenge. I work at the competition (Cineplex) but realize the need for a downtown theatre (having mostly lived downtown) and I love the downtown theatre.

  • Is there anything else we can do along with the petition? I don't know much about organizing these types of things, but I feel there has to be a way we can stop this – at LEAST the no competition clause! I've written Empire on my own behalf and received a msg back from a GM. They don't understand/don't care about what it means for this theater to operate DOWNTOWN! I don't know who they surveyed to get results that told them they should relocate in order to provide larger screens and new seats….I like our old shabby theater!


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